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Archive for the ‘Health Conditions’ Category

Courtesy: Centers for Disease Control

Courtesy: Centers for Disease Control

The amount of sleep we get and the quality of that sleep is crucial to overall health. While we sleep our bodies are repairing and rebuilding. If we are not getting adequate amounts of sleep we may feel sluggish upon rising and fatigued during the day.

Sleep deprivation is associated with a host of health conditions to include diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease (more…)

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Bitter HerbsBitter herbs and foods stimulate digestion by triggering the release of enzymes, hormones and digestive secretions such as saliva, acids and bile.  Because of this fact various organs such as the liver, gallbladder and pancreas benefit from their use.  This increase in digestive function helps to break down starches, fats and proteins and therefore increases metabolism.

Because bitters improve digestion they also help to increase nutrient absorption.  Bitters help to tone and tighten tissue which increases the integrity of the tissue as well as creating a protective barrier (more…)

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When I was pregnant with my son I craved peaches and nectarines.  I never thought much about those cravings until a few years later when I was reading a book by herbalist Darryl Patton called Mountain Medicine”, which chronicles the experiences of Appalachian herbalist Tommy Bass.  Bass stated that, “For expectant mothers, they can make the tea (of peach leaves) and drink a cup at night and one of a morning.  They won’t have to take it more than two or three days and they’ll never have no morning sickness.” (more…)

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I absolutely love spring because it ushers in new beginnings.   Fresh and vibrant plants which lay dormant all winter are now poking their little heads up to feel the warm air and greet the sun.  This is about the time of the year when our Southern Dewberries (Rubus trivialis) start to bloom.  The berries won’t come in until sometime in late April or early May, but the blossoms are just a reminder that soon we will be gorging ourselves on their juicy ripe berries.

The Dewberry is often confused with the Blackberry as they look quite similar.  However, Dewberries fruit earlier and grow close to the ground like a vine, while the Blackberry grows on upright stems or canes.

Like the Blackberry the Dewberries are edible and are a great treat on a warm spring day.  Dewberries like Blackberries can also be used medicinally (more…)

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I don’t necessarily believe in herbal “Panacea’s”, however, with one exception…Garlic (Allium sativum) comes pretty close.  What a fabulous herb that is so accessible to all and can be used as food/medicine.  Whether cooked or eaten raw the health benefits of garlic are astounding.  When eaten raw, garlic is an extremely effective antimicrobial (substance that kills or inhibits the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, or protozoans).  When cooked, garlic still extols numerous health benefits to include being a powerful antioxidant, blood thinning which helps to prevent clotting, and an adjunct to lowering blood sugar. (more…)

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Spilanthes acmella commonly known as toothache plant is not an herb I’ve worked with very much until recently.  However, I am intrigued by this plant as a teacher as it has so much to offer in just taste and sensation. If you want to truly feel the power of plant medicine you must try Spilanthes.  Either by chewing on one of the leaves or flower buds of the plant you will almost instantly note the effect this plant has within the body.  Spilanthes is a wonderful plant to help you understand terms like Sialogogue, acrid, aromatic, stimulant and diffusive.

When you begin to chew on Spilanthes your mouth will start to salivate wildly.  Spilanthes will truly help you understand the effect or action of a “Sialogogue”…which is an agent that “stimulates” the secretion of saliva from the salivary glands.  As Spilanthes increases salivation (Sialogogue) enzymes are excreted which help to break down the starches and fats in food.  Saliva also contains antibacterial compounds which help to protect teeth and gums.  Another thing that occurs when you chew on Spilanthes is that it numbs the area of the mouth and tongue temporarily.  Granted, the numbness is only brief and so therefore the effect will be more palliative, but useful.

Another reaction that will occur while chewing is that your mouth and tongue will begin to tingle almost like the feeling you have when you touch your tongue to a battery.  This is not an uncomfortable feeling, but rather a distinct sensation that awakens your senses and imparts the power of the plant throughout your mouth and excites the nerve endings.  This sensation or impression is known as “Diffusive”…the effect of spreading or dispersing.  A diffusive increases the circulation and movement of the herbs constituents throughout the body.  The sensation you get from chewing the plant occurs very rapidly which is another great example of how a diffusive works.  That tingling sensation that you feel also indicates that the herb is stimulating an immune reaction.  There are a number of other plants which impart this tingling sensation to include Echinacea, Ginger and Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum clava-herculis)

Just by chewing on the plant and experiencing these sensations it will help you to understand a great deal about its healing actions and benefits.  Spilanthes is aromatic and acrid in its impression.  Herbs which are Aromatic help to disperse cold, (because most are warming); they move stagnation and bring blood and nutrients into an area.   If you think about an area that has been bound up and where very little is moving (stagnation) you can imagine that area will feel tense.  However, once the tension is dispelled or dispersed the area once again feels relaxed.  Therefore, aromatic herbs are also considered to be relaxing and carminative (antispasmodic).  Aromatic herbs also contain essential oils that are known to be antiseptic as well as antimicrobial (inhibits the growth of organisms such as bacteria, fungi and protozoan’s).

Based on the taste and impression we get from Spilanthes we can consider it for use with various infections such as cold or flu and common fungal infections such as ringworm, vaginal yeast, athlete’s foot and jock itch.  Other uses for Spilanthes might include viral outbreaks of cold sores and herpes and conditions associated with parasitic infections.  Spilanthes as its common name implies is also beneficial for toothaches as well as abscesses of the gums and sore throats.

One other little note about Spilanthes is that it acts as an aphrodisiac stimulant for male Wistar albino rats having a “positive effect on mounting frequency, intromission frequency and ejaculation frequency”.  This information may come in handy if you have rats that may be experiencing some difficulties in that department.

To truly understand the effects and nuances of plants you have to use them, know how they taste and what sensations or impression they impart.  Spilanthes is truly the plant to help you explore the actions of herbs through taste and sensation.

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I am an avid gardener and find that being in the garden really helps me to relax.  There is a great sense of satisfaction that I get from growing my own food and medicine.  We often sit at the table marveling over the fact that….”Wow…we grew this”.  I guess you could say it doesn’t take much to impress us.

There are a lot of wonderfully exotic herbs out there that are used medicinally and I have no aversion to using them.  However, there are also plants that can be easily grown in your garden and are truly magical and healing.  Many of these plants you may find in your spice cabinet and you may already be adding them to your food.

If you are just starting out with herbs I think it is so beneficial to attempt to grow some herbs so that you can observe them, taste them, use them as medicine and get a real feel for the plant.  Some really great herbs to start with are some of the culinary herbs that you find in the grocery store such as Thyme, Basil, Bay, Oregano, Mints, and Rosemary.  All of the herbs can be grown either in the garden or in containers if you are limited on space.  Depending on where you are located some other herbs which are easy to grow include Aloe, Chamomile and Calendula.  If you are interested in growing your own medicinal garden check out local resources to see what will grow in your area.

Most culinary herbs we use are very Aromatic.  Aromatic herbs are warming and dispersive which means they spread out through the system, warm things up and get things moving.  If you think about the feeling or effect you get when you inhale the fragrance from an aromatic plant it opens up your head and your respiratory system; that is the effect of dispersive and this effect occurs throughout the body as well.  The movement provided by aromatics increases digestion and peristalsis along with relieving the pain associated with cramps.  Because aromatics alleviate this resistance thereby reducing pain they are often referred to as Antispasmodics.  By reducing tension or resistance aromatics are also considered to be tonics for the nervous system and relaxing nervines.  Most aromatics are also antimicrobials meaning they are effective for a host of infections due to bacteria, viruses and fungi.

Most culinary herbs are also carminatives.  Carminatives are aromatic herbs which help to improve digestion, relieve gas, bloating and cramping.  Many carminative herbs contain volatile oils which help to disperse or create movement freeing up any stagnation that has occurred therefore allowing the body to begin its healing.

BASIL (Ocymum basilium)

An herb used for centuries in both culinary and medicinal applications, Basil is said to be both cooling and heating in its actions. Traditionally, it has been used in instances of melancholy (depression), indigestion, and for insomnia related to nervous tension. Basil is also used for conditions ranging from colds, fevers, kidney and lung troubles.

Remedies using Basil

Make a tea using basil for headaches, indigestion, fevers, colds, flu, menstrual cramps, nausea, and vomiting.

  • Apply as a poultice for bacterial infections and burns.
  • Crush leaves and apply the juice topically to help with the itch of insect bites and inflammation of the skin.
  • Use as a steam for head colds.
  • Mix the juice of the leaves with honey for coughs.

BAY (Laurus nobilis)

Many people know about adding Bay leaves to their foods while cooking.  However, many people may not know that Bay is not just added to food to impart its flavor to the dish.  Bay leaves help to prevent gas and indigestion and were originally added to food as an aid to digestion.

Bay Oil for Arthritis

  • Heat bay leaves in oil on low heat for several hours.  Strain off the oil and apply the oil to swellings, sprains, or achy, arthritic or rheumatic joints.

 CAYENNE (Capsicum anuum)

Cayenne is an herb which is high in Vitamin K making it a natural blood coagulant. With this said it can staunch the bleeding from an open wound almost immediately by just applying it topically.  Cayenne is also a wonderful digestive aid which enhances the metabolism as well as increasing circulation.

Cayenne Liniment for Arthritis:

Add one ounce of Cayenne to one quart of rubbing alcohol and shake well.  Allow the mixture to sit for 2 – 3 weeks.  Apply this liniment to affected joints.

CAUTIONS: Do not get Cayenne in the eyes. Be especially careful if you wear contacts.

DILL (Anethum graveolus)

Traditionally used for colic and gas, Dill is a great herb to grow in your medicinal garden. Dill is an annual and will self seed itself.  Another use for Dill is that it may help stimulate milk in lactating mothers.

GINGER (Zingiber officinale)

Ginger has warming, stimulating, and antispasmodic properties. It is used frequently for stomach cramps, colds, poor circulation, motion and morning sickness. Ginger is also a wonderful herb for menstrual irregularities and discomfort and helps to promote circulation. Ginger can help to relax the smooth muscles thereby helping to alleviate menstrual cramps.

Remedies using Ginger:

Cough/Cold/Flu –  Add a thumb size piece of ginger root to one quart of water and bring to a boil.  Simmer with lid on at low heat for 30 minutes.  Let the mixture cool.  Strain and drink ½ – 1 cup as desired.  May sweeten with honey.  (Do not use for a dry unproductive cough)

Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

Because of its calming action Oregano is a wonderful herb to help reduce tension and nervousness.  Oregano as a tea is also very beneficial for digestion, improving appetite, to relieve flatulence and bloating. When the leaves of the Oregano plant are crushed they can be applied topically to help ease rheumatic, muscle and joint pain, itching, swelling, and to ease the sting of a bee.

PARSLEY (Petroselinum crispum)

Parsley is an outstanding herbal diuretic and may benefit those suffering from bladder and kidney problems. Also high in vitamins and minerals, Parsley is a good herb for the immune system. Eaten or drunk as a tea, Parsley is a great herb to have on hand for stomach cramps associated with gas.

PEPPERMINT (Mentha piperita)

Peppermint is another herb that is great to have on hand in the kitchen as a digestive aid. Not only is Peppermint great for nausea and flatulence but it can help to ease the stomach cramps associated with colic.

 Remedies using Peppermint:

Nausea – Steep 1 tbsp of mint leaves in 1 pint of boiling water for 20 minutes.  Allow to cool and sip on the tea as needed.

ROSEMARY (Rosmarinus officinalis)

A potent antiseptic, antioxidant, and antispasmodic useful in treating circulatory conditions, eczema, rheumatism, stiff muscles, Alzheimer’s, cancer, indigestion, and irritable bowel syndrome.

SAGE (Salvia officinalis)

Sage is a handy herb to have on hand during cold and flu season. A tea made with sage and used as a gargle can benefit someone with a sore throat. There is some research indicating that sage may help to reduce blood sugar levels and therefore benefit those with diabetes.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

This very aromatic herb can be used internally or externally and is a very powerful antimicrobial herb.  Because of it’s highly aromatic essential oils Thyme can be quite beneficial for treating respiratory troubles such as asthma, coughs, infections and allergies. Thyme also contains strong antifungal properties which make it useful for treating nail fungus, athlete’s foot, and yeast infections.

Thyme and Honey Cough Syrup

Place 3-4 tablespoons of dried Thyme in a pot along with a pint of water.  Bring herbs and water to a boil, remove from heat and allow to cool.  Mix the infusion with 1 cup of honey.  Use 1 tsp as needed for coughs.  Keep refrigerated.

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